By Daniel Hunter
New research from Skype and YouGov has found that 58% of British office employees believe they can be as productive (36%) or more productive (23%) when working from home than they would be in the office.
This view supports previous claims that flexible working arrangements can reduce absences and staff turnover, which in turn contributes to overall better production.
The findings from the research points to the UK lagging behind countries celebrated for more liberal working practices such as Finland, Sweden, Australia and the United States.
Despite the fact that 70% of those polled said that they wanted to work from home, in reality over half of all British office employees (51%) said they were not permitted to do so and less than a third (32%) have worked from home in the past twelve months.
As for using the Olympics as an opportunity to ‘skive’, Skype’s research reveals 67% of London’s office employees will not be working from home any more than they do usually during this time and nor will 89% nationally.
If more flexible working can return greater productivity and clear economic benefits then what is stopping the UK from embracing it?
One of the reasons, according to Linda Summers, Director of Product Marketing at Skype, is down to what she calls technological disassociation.
“Our research shows a clear divide between the views of employers and employees but both united by a common goal — how might we create an environment which allows us to do our jobs more effectively?” Summers continues, “Office based workers would prefer to have more flexible working structures whilst employers are concerned that productivity would be affected. What neither seems to have fully realised is that technological advances actually allow you to have both.”
As evidence, nearly a third of people who have ever worked from home (31%) said that lack of face-to-face time is one of the top reasons for not working as effectively from home.
“When you contrast 31% of people pointing to lack of face time as a reason for lower productivity with only 11% of home—working office employees having access to video conferencing facilities when working from home, you start to wonder whether the challenge is technological or behavioural,” continues Summers. “People are saying they want to work from home, they are productive when they do so, they just don’t want to feel isolated."
Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed said a telephone conferencing facility is important to enable them to work productively from home and 24% said video conferencing facilities were important. However, businesses that routinely offer them are in the minority.
“Simply put,” Summers continues, “We want to replicate the physical and emotional benefits of working within an office environment at home. This research allows us to start looking at the topic more broadly and ask whether the main challenge to the UK when it comes to flexible working is to do with infrastructure or creating more technologically social workplaces where tools like instant messaging, video conferencing and simple telephone conferencing are the norm.”
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